The library of the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles has carefully conserved the Joseph Jongen collection, consisting of autograph manuscripts, Jongen’s music library and his correspondance as well as concert programmes, press cuttings, iconographic documents and archives.
Joseph Jongen was a Belgian composer and organist who was born in Liege on 14 December 1873, and died in Sart-lez-Spa on 12 July 1953. He was the older brother of the composer Léon Jongen, ochestra conductor and former director of the Conservatoire de Bruxelles.
Joseph Jongen completed his musical education at the Conservatoire royal de Liège where he took piano, organ, and theory classes such as solfege, fugue, harmony and counterpoint with Sylvain Dupuis and Jean-Théodore Radoux.
In 1894, he received an award from the Académie royale de Belgique for his 1er Quatuor à cordes (op. 3), a work "of astonishing mastery by this near beginner (...) with rich and subtle polyphony", which was published in Leipzig shortly after.
In 1897, he won the first Grand Prix of Rome with his cantata Comala (op. 14). The prize enabled him to travel to study abroad for almost four years, from October 1898 until May 1902. He spent one and a half years in Germany, in Berlin, where he discovered the music of Brahms, met Vincent d'Indy and also Richard Strauss who gave him composition lessons. He moved on to Vienna, and then to Paris where he spent eight months. He finished his trip with eight months in Rome. During this very productive trip, he composed numerous important works: a symphony (op.15), two concertos (op. 17 and 18), a quartet with piano (op. 23) and other pieces which demonstrated a growing maturity in his style.
Following his return to Belgium in 1902, Joseph Jongen was then appointed professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Conservatoire of Liege in 1903.
He got married in 1909 and was father to three children, and took his family to England to see out the years of the First World War, and was an active participant in the musical life there as organist and also pianist and one of the founding members of the "Belgian Quartet".
From December 1918, Jongen again took up his post at Liege, and in 1920 was then appointed professor of fugue at the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles, where he soon went on to become director, from 1925 until his retirement in 1939. During his time as director, he invited eminent figures from abroad in the world of music to come to Belgium and sit on the jury for end of year examinations, and this initiative was a great success and greatly contributed to the growing reputation of the institution. During his early years as director of the Conservatoire he also composed his famous Symphonie concertante pour orgue et orchestre, op. 81.
From 1919 to 1926, Joseph Jongen directed the ‘Concerts Spirituels’ in Brussels and was active as a choral and orchestral conductor.
Year after year, he accumulated a body of work which encompassed many different genres of music, culminating in an impressive catalogue which he himself reduced to 137 œuvres, the last of which was completed in 1951.